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Advice for Young Performers

I’ve been receiving a lot of emails and calls asking for general music advice for young and experienced artists alike. I feel as if I’m still constantly trying to figure out the crazy hydra that is the music business, but i’ve been fostered by a lot of wonderful musicians since I started performing professionally at 13. I’ve  given this a lot of thought.

Let me start off by saying that there is no real “golden ticket”, and that everyone’s story is going to be different. However, there are a few things that have been tested to be true in my life:

  1. Find what makes you happy about playing music and make it your own. It’s so easy to see all the things that other people are doing and to want to be them instead of who you are. The world doesn’t need another “Lady Gaga”, but it does need a “____” (insert your name).
  2. Spend a lot of time figuring out what your niche is and who you are as an artist.Maybe find a specialty in a type of music, in performing, recording, and/or even arranging music. When you find out what you enjoy doing you will have a better time becoming the best at what you want to do. I think Einstein really said it right: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid”. If you don’t feel like you are performing well and don’t enjoy what you are doing, keep looking for what makes you happy and excited to work on. You’ll always find something.
  3. There is enough goodness in the world to go around. Always be humble, root on others , and never tear down others for succeeding. Period. Tearing someone else down doesn’t give you any more kudos than that what you inherently have. Try and learn from others as much as you can so that you can make your own style and do “you”.  I am convinced that jealousy is actually misplaced anger at yourself. Stop hating yourself!
  4. Don’t limit yourself by saying “oh, I don’t play that” or “I can’t believe people listen to that”. Everyone digs a different jam, and that’s ok. Whatever, man. People will pay you to play whatever they want, and there is no reason you should not be a part of that. All music contains the same notes and colors, but just arranged in a different order and pattern. There is something to like in every style, so go get in on it. Don’t ever complain about a paying gig because it allows you to be a musician and it is what you do as a musician. At the bare minimum, at least you got to go outside and play your instrument for people who enjoy it. It’s a good place to be. Find something to like in all types of music.
  5. Be versatile. You need to treat Music like the language that it is. You really should be able to read it, write it and speak it (improvisation). This is not necessary, but it is invaluable.
  6. You need to be able to perform well live. If you are a musician that can’t stay in tune or in time live, then you have a big, fundamental problem. You need to stop everything you are doing and figure it out before you make sure that no one will ever want to buy tickets to your concerts. Always say “NO” to lip-synching and “air-bowing” for string instruments etc. Your audience wants to hear YOU, and they want to hear you LIVE at a concert. It isn’t sustainable for your career to not be able to give them that.
  7. Don’t take rejection personally. In music there is no “best”, only taste. Music isn’t a mountain to climb with only one person sitting at the top. Technique is important, but everyone has a voice that defines them. Not everyone will appreciate your voice, and that’s ok. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Including the haters. That doesn’t mean that you have to let them get you down.
  8. Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. Try a style of music you’ve never heard before, go for a jam session with a local rock band, buy that weird new instrument you’ve been always meaning to try out, go straight up to venue owners and ask for a gig, and just do all the things. The music business is an exothermic reaction of effort, and you never know what will bounce back. Sometimes you will make a mistake. Learn from your mistakes along the way, and keep getting back up. People will respect that.
  9. Since you are essentially in the business of yourself, you need to make good business decisions. Be searchable on the internet (In a good way). This means having a website, Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and even just quality promo photos on the internet. When I was growing up I realized real quick that no one in their right mind is going to pay $100 for me (a 13 year old) to play their wedding if I didn’t have videos or a put together website. It didn’t matter that I could play well if I wasn’t on the internet. Part of this is getting your SEO so that when someone “Google’s” your name , you are the first thing that shows up. If you are a singer and your name is Brittany Spears (and you are not Brittany Spears proper), then maybe it could be a good idea to come up with another stage name. I will forever be eclipsed by Kaitlyn,  the WWE wrestler. And thats ok haha

**^^that is a photo of my very first violin in the header of this page! I was in 4th grade and I was just big enough for a 1/2 size violin. I haven’t grown much since then, though.